One of the oft-cited motivating factors behind the four-class realignment was Western Class A’s dominance in the state championship game. The Southern Maine Activities Association produced the past six state champions and all but two of the gold ball winners in the last quarter century.

The reconstituted Eastern Class A welcomes the winners of three of the past four titles and five of the past 11, so naturally, preseason predictions have the new additions, Cheverus, Deering, Portland and Windham, dominating their new league, with Bangor the lone Pine Tree Conference team warranting mention for playoff contention.

Don’t think the teams north of Exit 63 haven’t noticed.

“You can’t help but read about it. Their dominance in the state game is obvious,” Lewiston coach Bill County said. “But I’m not convinced there’s a tremendous chasm there (between the north and south teams). I don’t think the difference is as great as people think.”

The Eastern A “old guard” agrees they will have to prove that on the field this year. Edward Little cut to the chase and participated in some 7-on-7 leagues with the Portland area teams over the summer, in part to remove some of the mystique surrounding them.

“That was huge for our guys,” EL coach Dave Sterling said. “We realized we can come out and play with those guys. We’ve just got to go out and play as hard as we can and execute as much as we can.”


Perhaps mystique and aura are overrated. County and Oxford Hills coach Mark Soehren said they don’t get the sense their players are intimidated by the prospect of facing the big, bad bullies from the south.

“Our kids, I’ve not heard them say, ‘Oh no, we’re playing Cheverus,’ or anything like that,” Soehren said. “We certainly respect the West, but there’s no assuming anything. We’re playing football just like everybody else is playing football.”

County believes his Lewiston team stacks up with any team in the state athletically. The Blue Devils went through a lot of growing pains last year, starting nine sophomores at times while compiling a 2-7 record. The hope is that experience developed the raw athleticism and instilled some confidence and a physical mentality.

“We’re as athletic as any group I’ve seen in a long time,” he said. “I mean, we can run, and you can make a lot of things happen with speed. Our issue is whether our kids up front are going to be tough enough.”

The Devils will be dangerous in the open field, from tailback Quintarian Brown, who returned seven kicks/punts for touchdowns last year, to slot Sheon James, wide receiver Ben Howell and Ace Curry, who will split time at QB with Eddie Emerson and also split out as a receiver. They will need to give that speed an opening in the Wing-T, though, and while lining up in the pistol formation should help, County said the mid-sized offensive line will have to move the people in front of them consistently to set things in motion.

Of course, the athleticism carries over to the other side of the ball, but isn’t very useful if defenders can’t get off blocks or tackle effectively. In order to make more stops, the defense will have to be more physical, County said.


Edward Little has more bulk up front than its rival across the river. Like Lewiston, it will probably rely on more pistol sets to give its skill players more options. Sterling has a number of options, too, with last year’s leading rusher, Johnny Boyd, returning, along with speedy addition Hunter Martin and Henry Nguyen at running back and Ian Mileikis and Brandin Knowlton competing for the starting QB job.

Coming off a 2-7 mark in 2012, Sterling said the Eddies saw how much playing with confidence and poise, or a lack thereof, affected the team’s execution.

“Sometimes last year, it wasn’t a matter of getting beat because the other team was bigger or stronger or faster. The other team was more aggressive,” he said.

Oxford Hills rode an aggressive defense to its best record in five years in 2012 (3-6).  Soehren was glad to see the upswing carry over into offseason work in the weight room and 7-on-7.

The Vikings graduated 14 seniors and return eight players with starting experience. They will be particularly green on defense, but Soehren still expects that unit to be their strong suit.

“The individuals we lost you can’t replace,” he said. “But as a whole I think we’ve become more athletic. We’re not quite as big, but we’re stronger and we’re more athletic.”

Soehren thinks that athleticism can translate to more consistency out of his triple-option offense as long as the Vikings limit their mistakes. Fullback Malik Geiger is the only holdover in the backfield. Junior quarterback Brady Lafrance can be the triple threat that makes the option click.

Cheverus lost Fitzpatrick Trophy winner Don Goodrich but still has a nucleus of talent that carried a state record 34-game winning streak into last year’s regional championship game. Deering has a new coach, Scott Parsons. Portland, in its second year under former Yarmouth coach Jim Hartman, expects to improve upon last year’s surprising 6-3 record. Windham, which was briefly a part of Eastern A nine years ago, and Bangor are both coming off of disappointing seasons but expect to be in the playoff hunt.

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